Crown Castle and the Big Four Add More Small Cell Sites

Carriers are putting much of their capital resources into cell sites, as opposed to the large, single-purpose towers January 19, 2016

LOS ANGELES—As we’ve been reporting in the pages of Digital Radio Update, the big four carriers, and others, are emphasizing small cell sites, and putting much of their capital resources into them, as opposed to the large, single-purpose towers that we’ve grown accustomed to seeing over the last 25+ years. 

“Mobile data traffic is just exploding. You’ve got wireless carriers now who are challenged really to keep up with that growth … and provide a great customer experience.  Really, with the surge in demand, there are certainly pockets of capacity that are needed to basically augment the network. They’re now starting to employ things like small cells and are specifically asking for things like fiber backhaul. They have coverage, now they need capacity,” said Phil Olivero, CTO at Lightower Fiber Networks, in an interview on rcrwireless.com. “These (small cells) are going on utility poles, they’re going on sides of buildings, really non-traditional locations for cell sites.”

Out-of-doors and other small cell sites are the most viable option for carriers faced with ever-increasing demand for data services.  “Now that most Americans have smartphones, new tower construction is leveling off, but small cell demand is accelerating as carriers face the fact smartphone users are generating more data traffic each month,” according to another article in rcrwireless.com.  Crown Castle, one of the biggest owners and operators of cell towers in the U.S., spent $98 million on the construction of new sites during the third quarter of 2015, and most of that was spent on small cells.

“We are getting a significant amount of new opportunities in the top 25 markets around small cells,” said Crown Castle CEO Ben Moreland. “This is adding capacity in markets where towers are not sufficient to cover all the capacity needs, and it is a way to re-use some spectrum in a very efficient way.”

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